C LIT 312
Stanley Kubrick as an Auteur:
Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey
The 1960’s was a time of cinematic evolution. During this time period cinema history changed due to the incorporation of the auteur theory, a consciousness that a single director can be credited with the creative and distinguishing features of a film. Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey both attain many of the thematic and formal attributes that distinguish Kubrick apart from other directors of the 1960’s. As an auteur, his films incorporate the themes of the power of technology, evolution of man, depictions of sexuality, as well as the formal elements of Classical music and 3rd person narratives.
Both Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey are important in a historical context as they both reference the rise of the auteur theory in the 1960’s. This theory was first conceived in the late 1960’s by the Cahiers Du Cinema, a publication put out by a group of film critics, most notably Francois Truffaunt and Jean-Luc Godard, two major figures in the French new wave movement. This theory involved the idea that film is a type of art form and that work is created by a single director. Thus, films have their own individual personality it is believed that it is the director that gives a film its distinguishing features and end quality.
Stanley Kubrick attains a very distinct style of filmmaking which separates him from many other directors of the time period. Kubrick, being a journalist prior to being a director loved the utilization of 3rd person narration, intertitles, as well as voiceovers. He also created his films by selecting scores of classical music and molding his images around them. Also commonplace in many of his other films is the incorporation of war as a political or social statement, the evolution of humans, and alienation. These characteristics are present in many of his films, as referenced by their incorporation in both Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Each of these characteristics plays into the auteur theory in the sense that they distinguish Kubrick’s films from those of other directors of the era and beyond. Dr. Strangelove provides the film viewer a representation of many themes and formal elements typical of Kubrick’s work. One powerful theme within Dr. Strangelove is the possibility of doomsday and the destruction of the world at the hands of a technological weapon. Technology has gone awry and inherently has taken hold of the fate of the United States, Russia, and the world as a whole. Technology and more specifically the nuclear arms race was a very pertinent issue during the 1960’s and thus is a large proponent of the film. Although the film incorporates comedic stabs at the inadequacies of the United States military, the thematic material contained by the film had the potential to stir up shock and fear by its target audience as it attempts to critique the amount of destructive power at the hands of our military. Thus the film was forced to carry along with it a disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating “It is the stated position of the United States Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film.”
Another element of Kubrick’s thematic style is the incorporation of war into his film. Dr. Strangelove, starting during a war, represents the notion that it is necessary for man to be at war and attain conflict with both themselves and with others. The film depicts a situation in which a low level military officer strikes against Russia with nuclear force. This level of strike is based historically upon the cold war and the nuclear arms race with Russia. The power of the film lies in the fact that the anti-war fears within the film became plausible due in part to the assassination of President Kennedy, the intensification of the nuclear arms race and the debacle occurring at the Bay of Pigs. While within his